When it comes to pop culture humor, my kids and I are traveling through significantly different thought universes.
Half the time, I recognize the words they are using as part of the English language, but I can not understand why exactly those words are cracking them up.
In most cases, it’s because I haven’t seen the vine, the meme, or the TikTok they are referencing. And, to be honest, even if I have seen it, I still don’t get the humor. I mean, why is “Fre shavado” so hilarious to my teenagers? I HAVE NO IDEA.
As my kids grow up bombarded with content that is so distinct from my own experience, I want to make sure that we continue to share a common language of laughter, beyond making fun of their dad’s fashion choices.
True confession: the best way that I have bonded with my teenagers is by watching television together. A lot of television.
As a nerdy, English-teacher mom, that is not an easy disclosure to make. In my fantasy world, my kids are I would live in some utopian reading society where we would laugh and learn about life through our shared love of literature.
However, dear readers, sharing books with my kids is not my (current) reality. My reality is grabbing some popcorn, flopping on the couch, and turning on the television.
I don’t even feel guilty about that. My kids are growing up fast, and our lives are super busy.
And, my children – who used to be the best of friends in elementary school – are now teens who are hanging out separately as their interests and friend groups diverge. In our on-the-go household, I treasure these opportunities to bond by binge-watching some television together.
Sitcoms are a great place to start because of their brevity. In most series, the episodes run about 21 minutes, sans commercials. You can usually find the time to squeeze in an episode or two a few times a week.
Here are some ground rules:
You have to watch the shows together. No binge watching on separate devices in separate rooms under the guise of sharing notes later. No way – you have to watch the shows in the same room at the same time.
Be present during the viewing.That load of unfolded laundry might be screaming your name. Your fingers might be itching to check your work e-mail. Pause from the distractions. BE with your kids. And ask that they be with you as well. You can use my super-clever phrase when your kids try to multitask: One screen at a time, people. One screen.
Pick a show all parties can enjoy. Don’t watch “The Simpsons” if that’s not your thing. Don’t make your kids watch “The Golden Girls” if they aren’t going to understand the senior humor.
Give a show three or four episodes before you abandon ship. Some series start off slowly. Take Parks and Rec, for example. The first season is sort of meh. However, by Season 2, the writers clearly found their groove and the characters started developing into these quirky characters we loved.
Make an effort to recall shared moments. One of the favorite doodads on my iPhone is the #images button for messages (it’s that little red-and-white magnifying glass). My teenager and I have had full conversations just exchanging Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute images. I’ve also found some cute stocking stuffers on Etsy that celebrate our favorite characters and series.
Our Family’s Top Ten Favorite Parent/Teen Sitcoms:
1. The Office
2. Parks and Rec
4. The Goldbergs
5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
7. American Housewife
8. Young Sheldon
9. Fresh Off the Boat
10. Masterchef (and Masterchef Jr)
Your family has to find what works best for your family’s sense of humor. You also have to be prepared for what kind of effort you want to bring to television viewing. For example, I enjoyed watching Friends when I was younger. However, when I watched a few episodes in search of a show to share with my girls, I didn’t love it through a mom’s lens. The same with Seinfeld – while the characters were funny to me, they just weren’t loveable. I wanted there to be hints of sweetness mixed in with our sitcom-derived laughter.
Enjoy your television-time with your kids. Sharing a giggle with your teen is a lovely moment any time of day.
Need a way to watch?
Here are some more ideas from our Mom’s community:
The Amazing Race
Boy Meets World
How It’s Made
Once Upon A Time
I love Lucy
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Andy Griffith Show
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Man With a Plan
Americas Got Talent
Kids Baking Championship
American Ninja Warrior